The Happiest Day in the Life
Raging Bull is my favourite film. Other boxing films Rocky, Million Dollar Baby and Cinderella Man don’t come close. The fury and the tragedy of De Nero’s La Motta is a joy to behold. Last week I saw another boxing film (see link) which didn’t talk of the triumph and tragedy, the fantasy and the hard work but of how not everyone wants the glory,the limelight and the spotlight. How some are just born amateurs and however they are manipulated they are who they are. And how some are just not made for the big City.
Olli Maki was a very good Finnish lightweight. In the early 1960s he was European amateur lightweight champion. His manager had other ideas. Lose some weight become a featherweight and he could have a crack at the world professional title. His manager whips up the nation, the manager is a bit of loser, there are shady business types, there are sponsorship deals, press conferences. But this is the early sixties in Finland, it is NOT Las Vegas, some of the attempts at professionalism are very Heath Robinson. Whatever, Olli is really not up for it, but goes along with his bullying manager. He is a naïf, a Candide.
But Olli who by profession is a baker has fallen in love with a nursery school teacher. She is the girl next door, they always work as school teachers,it code for being good with kids, good mothers, wives.. Like Jules and Jim they fool around on bikes, they skim stones on the lake, they go to the dance. Which of course they can’t. They are small town lovers, not big time stars.
Olli has to get ready for the fight. He runs away, he comes back. She runs away, she comes back.Its so black and white,it has to be shot in black and white. Can he make the weight,can he create a fairy story Rocky type ending against the very capable looking US champ. Who has obviously smelt easy money.
It ends as it must end with the boy and girl walking off into the sunset , turning their back on the big time, but to do that he must lose, in the second round. Ouch. Lovely film, not great but lovely, sometimes thats enough,. Like Raging Bull based on a real story. Unlike Raging Bull the hero survives.